Addis Abeba – Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said ethnic cleansing, human rights abuses and forcibly expelling Tigrayans from Western Tigray persists despite the November 02, 2022 peace agreement and urged the federal government to suspend, investigate, and appropriately prosecute commanders and officials implicated in serious rights abuses.
In a report it published today,, the rights group emphasized that local authorities and Amhara forces in Western Tigray Zone have continued to forcibly expel Tigrayans as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign.
“The November truce in northern Ethiopia has not brought about an end to the ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans in Western Tigray Zone,” the report quoted Laetitia Bader, deputy African director at HRW.
“If the Ethiopian government is really serious about ensuring justice for abuses, then it should stop opposing independent investigations into the atrocities in Western Tigray and hold abusive officials and commanders to account”, Laetitia said.
The report said HRW interviewed 35 people by phone, including witnesses and victims of abuses, and aid agency staff from September 2022 to April 2023. Most of the interviewees are Tigrayans who had been arbitrarily detained in the town of Humera.
According to the interviewees, local authorities and Amhara forces held over a thousand Tigrayans in detention in the Western Tigray towns of Humera, Rawyan, and Adebai on the basis of their identity before forcibly expelling Tigrayans in November 2022 or January 2023.
“Several former detainees told Human Rights Watch that … in early January 2023, at least 70 people, including residents and detainees, were forcibly expelled from Western Tigray” the report stated.
“They asked me to pay 300,000 ETB so that I could be released to [Sudan], not Tigray. They would say in front of us, all of you should be killed, you shouldn’t stay alive,” the report quoted a 30-year-old former detainee held in a prison called Bet Hintset in Humera.
Furthermore, the report said security forces killed at least six detainees in Bet Hintset prison in Humera between June and August 2022 after 16 detainees, most held in one cell, took advantage of heavy rains and managed to escape in mid-June.
The report said that recent HRW research found that two officials, Col. Demeke Zewdu and Belay Ayalew, who were previously implicated in abuses, continue to be involved in arbitrary detention, torture, and forced deportations of Tigrayans, and urged for investigation of serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law to be conducted on them.
Emphasizing provisions of the international law that people forcibly removed from their homes have the right to return to their villages, HRW urged the establishment of an independent body that can organize and monitor returns that are safe, voluntary, well-informed, and dignified.
Calling on the Ethiopian government to suspend and investigate civilian and military officials implicated in the rights abuses, the rights group also urged the AU to ensure that the AU Monitoring Mission publicly reports on protection concerns, rights abuses, and humanitarian access in Western Tigray during its proposed visit in June.
It further called on Ethiopia’s partners to consider imposing targeted financial and visa sanctions on individuals implicated in serious human rights abuses during the conflict in northern Ethiopia and since the truce among other recommendations.
A joint HRW and Amnesty International report titled ‘We Will Erase You From This Land’ had documented extensive accounts of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing inWestern Tigray by the then newly-appointed officials and security forces from the neighboring Amhara region, “with the acquiescence and possible participation of Ethiopian federal forces.” The report reveled officially have “systematically expelled several hundred thousand Tigrayan civilians from their homes using threats, unlawful killings, sexual violence, mass arbitrary detention, pillage, forcible transfer, and the denial of humanitarian assistance.”
Furthermore, in March this year, the US State Department has determined that members of the Amhara forces have “committed the crime against humanity of deportation or forcible transfer and committed ethnic cleansing through their treatment of Tigrayans in western Tigray.”AS